Email marketing is a smart way for independent auto dealers to attract, retain, and grow loyal customer bases. Dealerships with strong email marketing strategies have proven success in boosting sales, generating new leads, increasing their website traffic, and building customer loyalty.

Are you doing everything you can to make sure that your emails are opened, read, and generating the response you want? Here are five things that you can start doing TODAY to become more effective at email marketing at your dealership.

1. Build a strategy for Email address collection

Collecting emails on your website is just a starting point.  Independent dealers need a great strategy for email marketing that goes beyond just their website sign-up form or via third-party internet lead providers.  There are opportunities to collect emails in so many different ways.  Think of all the ways your customers interact with your dealership, and focus on every opportunity to collect emails both online and offline.

-Past customers

-Loyalty programs/referrals

-At the service counter

-At the parts counter

-Promotional & community events

-When collecting contact info prior to a test drive

Utilizing all these opportunities to collect email addresses will help ramp up your dealership’s email marketing efforts quickly and easily.

2. Mix it up with Fresh Content Ideas

To keep your email messages fresh and interesting, independent dealers should use a mix of promotional content (sales and discounts, financing promotions, new inventory) and informational or educational content that appeals to car buyers.  Informational and educational content could include topics like improving gas mileage, driving safety tips for winter weather conditions, or current news topics that relate to used-car shoppers.  Need more ideas?  Look to your customers!  Think about the questions your customers frequently ask on your website or on the showroom floor, study what your customers have told you are their likes and dislikes, or what they say about other dealerships in your area.  Engaging interest is easy when you focus your email messages on what your customers are already thinking about!

3. Target your message

Consider sending targeted email messages to just a segment of your customers who you know are interested in a specific topic.  Do you have a group of prospects interested in a specific make or model?  Send a tailored message to that group highlighting the latest inventory on your lot that you know they are looking for!

4. Make it Personal

According to a recent study, personalized promotional emails (“Dear Bill” instead of “Dear Customer”) were shown to have significantly higher response rates: up to six times higher than non-personalized emails!  In fact, personalized subject lines delivered 26 percent higher unique open rates overall.  Surprisingly, many independent dealers fail to personalize their email messages.  Many dealership CRMs or email marketing applications make it easy to automatically add the customers’ name to your email messages.

5. Help Your Customers Spread the Word
You have a group of loyal customers that have become your biggest fans.  Make it easy for them to shout it from the rooftops!  The right customers will help you spread the word by forwarding your emails or sharing your message on social media with their friends, colleagues and families. Adding a simple “share” button to your emails will help your customers think about sharing and make it easy for them to do.